September 2016 – Museum Volunteers and Moray Society members visit to Elgin Cathedral
On Thursday 8th September, Dr Rona Walker, Regional Collections Manager (North) for Historic Environment Scotland (HES), kindly gave us a personalised tour of Elgin Cathedral.
The visit was a follow-on to the donation by the Museum of a collection of carved stone originating from the Cathedral that had been languishing in our cellar for many years. After detailed study and recording by carved stone specialist, Dr Mary Markus, the stone fragments are now housed in the “Bishop’s House” where they are available for study and comparison with other Cathedral stones. The Museum also has a collection of Medieval glass from the Cathedral, now on loan to the Cathedral and forming part of a new and stunning display.
It was wonderful to learn more about the Cathedral, as well about the construction of the new exhibition and the huge amount of work that Dr Walker and her HES colleagues have put in to bring it together. The stones and medieval stained glass are beautifully and innovatively displayed within the Cathedral towers, and the brilliantly imaginative display of “Bishop Archie”, created in association with Napier University (Edinburgh), has to be seen to be believed! Even the “biblical” rain couldn’t dampen our spirits on the day!
August 2016 – Young Marvels Trades Banners project
We have been running a special project for our junior membership, the Young Marvels, based on the theme of the ‘Incorporated Trades of Elgin’. This has involved the children and their parents making modern day ‘Trades’ banners. The project ran for six weeks over the summer holidays and resulted in a march around Elgin Town Centre on 9th August 2016 to show off the banners that have been made. This was followed by a ‘Trades Trail’ for families in conjunction with the C2C2C Project.
After much discussion, five modern day ‘Trades’ were selected by the children to focus on:
- Military – some of the parents involved are from the local RAF/Army bases
- Medical – the area has a large base of medical personnel, both military and civilian
- Sport – the local football team and sport venues in the area are popular
- Engineering – links with military and civilian engineering work
- Elgin Museum – the children thought that this was a good opportunity to showcase the museum itself
As well as creating their own banners based on these trade themes, the group learned about the conservation of an original trade’s banner in the Museum’s collection, the “Hammermen’s Banner”, from Museum Assistant Heather Townsend, and were given a short talk on the history of the Elgin Trades from Museum volunteer Sara March.
Historic Environment Scotland also very kindly sponsored a group visit to Elgin Cathedral to look at the links with the Trades that could be found within the Cathedral grounds.
The culmination of the project was the march around Elgin with the banners that the children had created. They had a hard time controlling the banners due to the strength of the wind but managed to keep their banners – and their feet – firmly grounded. One of our Young Marvels carried the replica of the Town Drum and used this to great advantage to get the attention of shoppers around the town.
The children and their parents worked really hard over the previous six weeks and we would like to thank them for their efforts and their creativity. We would also like to thank Museum volunteers Sara and Louise for their support with the project and Liz from the C2C2C project. We are looking forward to our next project with the Young Marvels – it’s going to be a challenge to top this!
On Wednesday 27th April, we at the Museum were delighted to welcome Mosstowie Primary School to the Museum. School pupils took over the running of the Museum for the day, having found out, before then, all that had to be done to welcome visitors etc during the day.
The school issued a press release for the occasion:
Press Release: Elgin Museum
Take-Over the Museum Day 2016
On Wednesday the 27 th April 2016 Mosstowie Primary School had the opportunity to run Elgin Museum. Before the day the pupils worked hard to organise their morning: tour times, practising pop-up exhibitions and learning how to promote the morning through social media. The morning started quite slowly but the Viking pop-up exhibition found themselves with quite a big audience. Miltonduff Nursery provided the pupils with a younger audience. However they were captivated by the Fossil Handling Box and exhibition, who gave them the opportunity to do some fossil rubbings. The morning flew past and the pupils thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to take the reins and run the museum. From the comments in the visitor book, they did a fantastic job!
The Dandaleith Stone
The stone arrived at the museum on 1st March 2016. It was brought by Graciela Ainsworth and two colleagues from Edinburgh where it had been conserved. Also returned were the majority of the museum’s existing carved Pictish/Early Medieval stones that had also been with Graciela for conservation. With the help of the Elgin Marble Company the Dandaleith stone was lifted into position the following day. The Elgin Marble Company provided a lifting frame and manpower free of charge and their assistance is greatly appreciated.
New shelving to display the museum’s carved Pictish/Early Medieval stones had been manufactured by Graciela Ainsworth and was assembled in the Rear Hall and the stones fixed in place. Two Burghead bull carvings together with a cast of another Burghead bull have been mounted on the wall. The display shelving has integral lighting that illuminates the stones very well. The overhead lighting has been configured to illuminate the entire reimagined display. Brown coir matting covers the dais and new interpretation panels are in place.
Opening Day 2016
As well as the excitement of opening with our new Dandaleith Stone, we also had the opening of a small exhibit in the Upper Gallery about Albert Bonici, who did much in the Sixties and Seventies to further the entertainment scene in the North of Scotland.
The exhibit was researched and assembled by David Dills, who hails from San Francisco. He had heard much of the ‘Beat’ scene created around the Park Cafe and the Two Red Shoes Ballroom, which were opened by Albert Bonici and as well as the publishing of a blog (scotbeat.wordpress.com), he wanted to display some of the artefacts from the time. To commemorate the exhibit, a local band from that time, Windy Miller came to play a short set to give us a flavour of the era. It gave an excitement to the opening day, especially when three members of Johnny and the Copycats, another group from that time, also played a few numbers.
On Saturday 16th May, the Museum held a children’s day of “Medieval Mayhem” with a total of 260 visitors in the 4 hour open period. All who visited were hugely enthusiastic about the most enjoyable day. Volunteers, dressed in medieval costume, told stories, made swords, taught medieval dancing, offered samples of medieval food.
The day was also the launch day for the new children’s club, Elgin Museum Young Marvels. 25 new members were signed up on the day and lots of application forms were taken away to fill in at home. Details of the club can be found in the membership pages of the website.
Dr Douglas G. Lockhart made further use of the Elgin Trades papers which were donated to the Museum when the Trades wound up. He gave us a most interesting talk in 2014 about some of the planned villages in north-east Scotland. His recent work on the land surveyors of Moray is presented as an article in the magazine of the Scottish Local History Forum (Issue 91 – Spring-Summer 2015), and Douglas has given a copy to the Museum Library. It is full of useful leads to local estate and town plans, and two of the illustrations are of the vignettes on Thomas Hutcheon’s Plan of Burgh of Elgin, 1855. I recommend the article as a good read.
Geology and palaeontology
Dr Sue Beardmore After 12 months of specimen and box, checking, the work in the West Store is almost complete. The fossils comprising the Recognised Collection have all been examined, listed in a new database and placed in protective material, either small cardboard trays or acid free paper. Although specimens were returned to the same grey plastic boxes they were stored in beforehand, they are now re-organised so that each box contains like-specimens. Boxes are also colour coded based on age (Middle Devonian, Upper Devonian, Permian, Triassic), with further divisions based on source locality and then type of fossil; other categories have been established for fish from unknown localities, invertebrates and plants. Most numerous by far are the fish fossils collected from places like Tynet Burn, Dipple Brae and Lethen Bar, followed by reptiles of either Permian or Triassic age from Findrassie, Spynie and Lossiemouth, forming, in short, a high diversity of vertebrate animals from only a handful of sources. All of the boxes are now accessible with stacks of no more than two high as opposed to the 12 observed at the start of the project. A final improvement, with the help of Tomas Christie and Graham Robertson, has been the moving of a stack of shelves in to an alcove, greatly improving access to an otherwise unusable stack and allowing the examination of the last few fossiliferous blocks.
The completion of work in the West Store was marked by the very successful ‘Moray Geology: Past, Present, Future’ conference. Financially, the project has gained considerable support with awards, to date, from the Geologists’ Association (Curry Fund), Palaeontological Association (meeting support) and Museums Galleries Scotland (Recognition Fund). Our final number of attendees was almost 100 from all over the UK – our attendee from Berlin got caught in a Lufthansa strike! The event, and therefore the Museum, will be publicised in a proceedings booklet, reports to the above mentioned organisations. Several further related articles have been proposed for the geo-conservation magazine ‘Earth Heritage’, geology magazine ‘Deposits’ and Palaeontological Association Newsletter. These follow a recently published article in the ‘History Scotland’ magazine describing the importance of one particular fossil of Stagonolepis robertsoni housed in Elgin Museum, albeit with a slight geographical error on the editor’s part. Elgin is not in Midlothian!
After the publications and reports have been completed my contract at Elgin will be finished. I hope to remain in the area until the end of May to see any local sites I have not yet visited. Beyond this I have no firm plans but believe a holiday is in order, perhaps to America for more fossil excavations in the deserts of southern Utah or somewhere quieter to finish up various publications still awaiting my attention. In any case, I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their help during my stay.
Dandaleith Pictish Stone
I am delighted to be able to announce that Elgin Museum has been allocated a rare treasure, the Dandaleith Stone, a Class I Pictish Stone which was uncovered by a farmer in a field at Dandaleith, near Craigellachie.
The Class I Pictish symbol stone was found in May 2013 during ploughing at Dandaleith Farm, near Craigellachie. The stone, a solid pink granite boulder, measures 0.5 x 1.68 x 0.36m and weighs c.670kg. It has incised decoration on two adjoining faces; the other two faces show no obvious signs of carving. Face 1 is incised with a large crescent, with crescent and V-rod below. Face 2 is incised with a mirror case symbol, with notch rectangle and Z-rod below. The stone may be unique in having two pairs of symbols carved on the same orientation on two adjoining faces. The stone has been conserved before going on display at the Museum. Due to delays in organisation of funding, it is doubtful that it will go on show until after the upcoming seasonal opening.
The stone will be a wonderful addition to our existing collection of carved stone and the stone will be got into place as soon as we have overcome the problem of raising necessary funding and solving the logistical problems of transporting it to Elgin and getting it in situ in the Museum.
We are delighted that the Museum continues to be a useful resource for many students and researchers. It is good that the collection is able to be used to help with research on Scotland and its history.
Chris Stewart-Moffitt , Masters student from Bute, studying our Neolithic stone balls for his dissertation
Dr Keith Bland, entomologist from National Museums Scotland with Martin Cook, Moray and Nairn Bird Recorder and Elgin Museum volunteer, curating, cataloguing and rationalising our entomology collection.